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Django Reinhardt (late period)

Since Django only lived to the age of 43 it may seem odd to refer to any point that could be considered a “late” period. Yet, the recording he did from about 1948 until his death in 1953 are what I am referring to. This was the period immediately following his short tour of the United States with Duke Ellington. Django was very influenced by Bebop at this point and recorded many pieces that reveal that influence. He also went for a more “electric” sound at this point.

I always have had a deep appreciation for this “late period Django” and some of the tunes he wrote during that time like “Nuits De Saint-Germain Des Pres” and “Fleche D’Or.”

Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987)

I recently saw the documentary, “Jaco:The Film.”
Most everyone knows that Jaco Pastorius was an electric bass virtuoso. He was sort of like the Jimi Hendrix of electric bass. But his life was a short and tragic one. He lived fast, played hard and died young as the saying goes.

Seeing the film made me think of a childhood friend of mine who was also a great bass player though not nearly as well known as Jaco. This friend of mine and I grew up in the same town and played in a band together in high school. We even made a record. Doug and I played together again in our early twenties. In fact, I was with him the night I met my wife.

He too lived fast and died way too young. The last time I saw him just a few weeks before his tragic death was quite an incident and it haunts me. I was driving down a street in Uptown Minneapolis called Lagoon. A car came speeding up impatiently behind me beeping the horn and then passed me. The driver of the car and I both simultaneously flipped each other the bird. Then we both instantly realized who was in the other car. We sort of laughed and shrugged. All of this happened very quickly but left a big impression.

I was shocked to hear of his death a short time later. He had achieved some notoriety and had become the touring bass player in the group of a very well known blues artist. To me Doug was, in my opinion, a sort of “Minnesota Jaco.”

When I think about this last encounter on a street in Uptown it seems a pretty good metaphor for how differently we led our lives. I was always more cautious and calculated while my friend was a risk taker and lived on the edge. Though this quality may have caused him some problems it might also be what made him such a fine musician.

He visits me once in a while in my dreams.

Wes Montgomerey (1923-1968)

Tomorrow (June 15) marks the 48th anniversary of Wes Montgomery’s premature death. Wes has left a considerable legacy with the albums he recorded for Riverside, Verve and A & M records. Recently some previously undiscovered recordings have come to light and are being issued. The most recent being One Night in Indy (with The Eddie Higgins Trio). This live recording from January, 1959 was done in Wes Montgomery’s hometown of Indianapolis.

Wes passed away at his home in Indianapolis from a sudden heart attack on the morning of June 15, 1968. He had just finished a tour and, as was his custom, this tour was done by automobile with Wes behind the wheel. Wes disliked flying.

His wife Serene was with him at the time of his passing and there is some small comfort in that fact.

Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950)

Dinu Lipatti was a Romanian classical pianist and composer. Though he recorded relatively little, some of his recordings (his Chopin Waltzes for example), are considered classic.

What people don’t readily recognize is that he was a very good composer. His “Concertino in Classical Style” is probably the best known of his works but even this piece is seldom heard. I also like “Les Tziganes” a symphonic suite from 1934 and the “Romanian Dances”.

These pieces are hard to find on record but some radio transcriptions with the composer as participant can be found online and are well worth checking out. He was a student of Nadia Boulanger and both Stravinsky and Cortot admired him as both a pianist and composer.

Lipatti suffered from lymphoma the last few years of his very short life at a time when little could be done for his condition. A live recording done just three months before he died is widely available that is entitled  “Final Recital at Besancon.”

It is said that he was gasping for air on this last concert but he bravely finished the concert and this recording is a testament to his greatness as a pianist and his extraordinary bravery. He achieved a lot during his 33 years in this quaint old vale of tears.

I wrote a short solo guitar piece called “Sasha and Dinu” which, in part, is in dedication to Dinu Lipatti.